One Thousand White Women (One Thousand White Women Series)

by Jim Fergus

Paperback, 1999




St. Martin's Griffin (1999), Edition: 1st, 464 pages


Fiction. Historical Fiction. HTML: One Thousand White Women is the story of May Dodd and a colorful assembly of pioneer women who, under the auspices of the U.S. government, travel to the western prairies in 1875 to intermarry among the Cheyenne Indians. The covert and controversial "Brides for Indians" program, launched by the administration of Ulysses S. Grant, is intended to help assimilate the Indians into the white man's world. Toward that end May and her friends embark upon the adventure of their lifetime. Author Jim Fergus has so vividly depicted the American West that it is as if these diaries are a capsule in time..


½ (1110 ratings; 3.7)

User reviews

LibraryThing member delphica
(#16 in the 2007 book challenge)

Okay, this was just silly. The occupation of the Black Hills and the forced relocation of the Cheyenne (and others) to inadequate reservations are a decidedly low point in American public policy. This novel would have us believe that the two most compelling points to
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take away from this are:
1. This would be really awful if it happened to white women.
2. Dude, Indians do it doggie-style!

Grade: F. Stupid.
Recommended: Good grief.
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LibraryThing member Cheryl_in_CC_NV
Reminds me of nothing so much as the sequel to Clan of the Cave Bear. ?�A naive reader might think she's learning something, but really it's a pastiche of romance, erotica, and racism. ?á

?áYes, racism. ?áEven though Fergus took pains to do his research and to portray his characters of all
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'races' as complex individuals and as members of peoples with both 'bad' and 'good' customs, he just doesn't get it. ?áFor example, he apologizes in advance for any errors he may make in transcribing the language of the Cheyenne, but not for any misunderstandings of their cultural practices... and boy he writes of those practices as if he has the knowledge of a tribal elder. ?á

And the dialect he puts in the women's mouths - at least, the Irish, Swiss, and Southern women. ?áThe less exotic women speak in perfect English. ?áOf course this is all told in the journals of May... are we really to believe she scribbled over campfire-light italics to indicate the loyke us and the mahself every time she recorded her companion's language?

I don't even want to talk about Euphemia, aka Black White Woman.

Other things trouble me. ?áThe southern belle clings to her memories and her flask (a magical self-filling flask, apparently, btw) until she's gang-raped by another nation. ?áThen her Cheyenne husband patiently nurses her, and all of a sudden she's happy and glowing and fully assimilated to the savage way of life.... ?á?á

I finished because I wanted to find some redeeming value. ?áI'm sure the author meant well. ?áBut ... fail ... another day of my life, lost.
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LibraryThing member readingrat
Interesting premise, but... the author never quite pulls it off. There was never a moment once the "diary" entries started that I felt that this was anything other than straight-up fiction. The main character had just too many modern sensibilities to be believable. The remaining characters tended
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to be stereotypes of their ethnicity/religion. There really weren't any surprises here but I have to say that the story did flow well and did a decent job of holding the reader's interest.
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LibraryThing member santhony
It would seem that at some point in the 1870s, during the administration of Ulysses S. Grant, a collection of Native American chieftains traveled to Washington for the purpose of negotiating a treaty. One of these was a Cheyenne leader named Little Wolf. As part of the negotiations, Little Wolf
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requested that his tribe be supplied with 1,000 white women, in an effort to assist in the assimilation of the Cheyenne peoples with the white man. Predictably, the request was met with derision and horror. In this alternative history, the request was clandestinely granted.

The book takes the form of a journal written by May Dodd, a member of the first (and only) wave of white women provided the Cheyenne. The women sent to the Cheyenne were a motley crew of prostitutes, lunatics and other undesirables (with a few interesting exceptions). The story describes the white women’s efforts to survive the Cheyenne lifestyle and adapt to a totally foreign way of life.

The most common complaint in many of the unflattering reviews of this book is the stereotypical nature of the characters. While it is true that many of the characters are stereotypes, the fact is that stereotypes develop for a good reason. While stereotypical, by and large, the characters are believable in my opinion. The book is entertaining, and while not a great work of literature, it is worthwhile nonetheless. It is a quick and easy, captivating read.
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LibraryThing member suztales
Because the premise of the book is so outrageous, I wasn't sure what to expect. I found I quickly became immersed in the story, and let my imagination run with it. But before I was halfway through, I became certain the author had not endowed May Dodd with a truly feminine voice; her thought
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process, it seemed, was definitely male. Fergus, however, did a good job of presenting the Cheyenne culture and life style fairly and authentically. I have read much American Indian history, fiction and nonfiction, and have always been fascinated by it. His description of the U.S. Army in that period also seemed close to the mark. I think the most amazing thing about this novel is that its concept is so original! I enjoyed it.
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LibraryThing member 4everfanatical
***Spoilers ahead***

I had mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, it is a beautiful story - full of descriptions of the Cheyenne Indian way of life and how May Dodd and the other white women adapted to it. On the other hand, it did seem completely ridiculous. The author seemed to assign a
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terrible cultural stereotype to each of the white women; from the fat Swiss girl with huge breasts and a terribly thick accent where pronunciation of words were phonetically spelt; to pale, red headed Irish twins who were devoutly Catholic and had incredibly thick accents also. The stereotypical descriptions of these women and many others (including English, African and a Southern Belle) were so over the top and ridiculous it ruined the whole story.

As many other reviewers have noted, the fact that a man wrote this from the perspective of a 19th century woman - it just didn't work. The whole plot device of using the journals to tell the story was lazy. May Dodd managed to keep a perfect chronological record of everything that happens around her even as she lay dying?! I mean if I got shot and was freezing to death, spending my last moments scribbling in a stupid book would just not happen.

Despite all of the books terrible faults, I actually did enjoy the story. The ending was so sad, reflecting the very tragic way in which the native Americans had their way of life brutally decimated. It left me feeling pretty depressed.
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LibraryThing member SaraEllen
I received this book from the publisher to read and provide an honest review.

I am trying to find the right words to discuss this novel. It is difficult to review a book that you were initially so eager to read, when the book leaves you as disappointed as this book has left me. Let's begin with the
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fact that this is a work of fiction. The events in this book, for the most part, did not occur. Chief Little Wolf and his family are in fact real people, though it is hard for me to find a lot of information on this man other than the basic facts. It does not appear to me that the 'Brides for Horses' proposal actually happened, though the idea is interesting. I was very excited to read such an interesting and different novel but found myself to be very disappointed.
The characters were one-dimensional and had very little to attract a reader to them. May Dodd, the supposed protagonist/feminist character is arguably one of the most shallow, conceited and pretentious characters I have ever read. Incredibly vapid and hard to relate to May is not someone that I would like to read about especially how she misses her 'babies' (I'm sorry but I found the constant repeat of the word 'babies' to be incredibly annoying) and how she was wronged by her parents. Let's focus on the fact that you were consistently raped while you were in a mental institution a little more, or that you apparently have such a close relationship with your sister that you name one of your children after her. There was no backstory to May and very little to give her any sense of character or for me to understand why she was such a 'hero'. The other characters were poorly written but did contain a decent assortment of personalities and backgrounds. These were not relate able women and, honestly, did feel like real women at all. Bouncing back from rape, climbing half naked on a horse to go hunting and a set of twins giving birth to a set of twins at the same time, c'mon. These are all completely unrealistic and definitely hard to relate to.
The idea that this was a 'journal' did not sit well with me as I do not understand the constant narration of conversation. Not to mention the vocabulary seemed off and the inner thoughts of the character should be much more available in a private journal.
I thought the addition of the 'romance' with Captain John Bourke was pathetic. Could we please have novel where the main female character isn't driven by sex and love? I mean you guys do know there are other things a woman worries about right?
The ending of course made me incredibly frustrated as well. Actually, everything about this book made me sad and angry. The idea could have been very good but was executed poorly.
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LibraryThing member LaPhenix
I had some moments of pure rage when the narrator implied the natives were the more barbaric, though the narrative later suggested that atrocities were committed on both sides. The ideas were unique and interesting, but I felt the book, despite the setting, offered a very limit perspectives on
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anything other than white culture.
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LibraryThing member crazy4reading
I enjoyed reading a fiction book mixed with facts about the Native Americans and the White men. This is one subject I am very interested in since my children are part Native American on their father's side.

One Thousand White Women is a work of fiction about if white women were given to the Native
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Americans mainly the Cheyenne's. The belief of the Native Americans is that all babies belong to the woman's tribe. The American Government decides that this is a great way to assimilate the Indians to the white man's world.

As I read this book I found myself getting very interested in the characters. You meet many different white women. I found them very interesting. You have some that are very independent, some shy, some different and some just crazy. The characters are well dimensioned. As the story progresses you learn a lot about the women and how strong they really are. Some of the women really start to discover themselves.

It was interesting to learn some customs of the Native Americans. Some were a little scary. I also found the similarities between the white man's thinking and the Indian's thinking very interesting. The Indian's feel that the man is superior to women and are left out of a few things. Their is one women who realizes this and dose some things to enlighten the Indians. The women is May Dodd and these are her journal entries.
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LibraryThing member lisatimbers
I enjoyed this book very much, though it wasn't very challenging. and I'm not sure how much research was put into it. A good beach read, I'd say. The treatment of gay people in the tribe, as well as the treatment of the insane, made me want to check on the facts. Too bad our own society doesn't
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revere the "abnormal" similarly.
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LibraryThing member birthsister
If you're looking for a triumph of female spirit, don't bother. Obviously written by a man who gives only a passing glance at issues and circumstances a female reader would take far more seriously. If you want a quick read with superficial attention paid to real women's issues...go for it.
LibraryThing member memccauley6
I found this to be a somewhat entertaining read. This is the type of book which is perfect for a book club – it isn’t very deep or hard to read, may serve as an infrequent reader’s introduction to the subject, but leads more serious readers to other books on the subject. (For example John G.
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Bourke was a real historical figure and his many books and diaries are available, including On the Border With Crook).

That being said…. the characters were clichéd, the plot was predictable, and at NO time did I believe this was written by a woman of the period. Snark Alert! May was the worst kind of Mary Sue (Google it). Now I remember why I couldn’t remember anything about this book - I first read it not long after it was published in the 1990s.

For a much better fictional romp through the Cheyenne Nation, read Little Big Man by Thomas Berger… or watch the movie.
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LibraryThing member Othemts
This novel is built on the premise that in 1875 the Cheyenne tribe made an agreement with the Grant administration to bring 1000 white women to their lands as sort of mail-order brides in order to promote amity and civilization of the natives. The government finds some volunteers and fills out the
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allotment of 1000 women with inmates from prisons and insane asylums. The book is written as diary entries and letters from one of the latter, a woman named May Dodd placed in an asylum by her well-off family because she lived out of wedlock and bore children to a man of a lower class.

The positive aspects of this book is that it while May and her compatriots find love and much to admire in their new home, they Cheyenne are not idealized (a la Dances With Wolves). May while appreciating her new husband and free lifestyle never stops referring to the Indians as savages. The book comes to a sad but inevitable end as the Americans lust for land leads to the conquest of the Cheyenne, white women included.

This book was better than I expected as I thought it would be a more flippant farce. I did find that Fergus as a male author failed to write convincingly in the female voice. For example, May suffers some traumatic experiences that are rather casually put behind her. Still, it's a unique framing for a historical novel and an enjoyable read.
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LibraryThing member tinkerbellkk
This was a book club selection that we chose given the interesting write up describing the book. Well that was the end of what I enjoyed. I felt this book could have been very good if it had taken a different direction. The concept had potential but the characters - while all interesting in their
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own right - just went along all too easily for me. I can't imagine women from this time just going off into the bush with a tribe of Indians and them adjusting so quickly to this lifestyle. I really wanted to like the book since there were moments where I felt the characters were real and there were moments of sadness. However in between those moments, the rest was just too unbelievable. Unfortunately not my favourite.
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LibraryThing member tkmess
Loved the lively characters in this book - strong women and colorful people. An interesting look at how we view other cultures and tend to stereotype as "good" or "bad" when in reality, all cultures are a mix of both.
LibraryThing member Brandie
Let me say, great book. I thoroughly enjoyed it! I actually picked this book up some time ago, and couldn't even stand it to finish the first chapter! I am so glad I picked it up again. So many interesting things in the book and perspectives. I highly recommend it!
LibraryThing member kalobo
I was really intrigued by the premise of this novel, but when I began to read it, its florid style of writing really irritated me and I never finished it. The author was evidently trying for a style true to the mid-1800 time period but I've seen it done much more fluently. The book felt awkward to
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LibraryThing member carmen29
One of my all-time favorite books. It is a story that draws you in and makes you forget you're reading fiction.
LibraryThing member toad97
Great premise for a great story - take a historical event and twist it on it's ear with "what if that 's not really how it happened?"
LibraryThing member SheReads
A delightful historical novel that re-writes history. I love that the author, a man, wrote a woman's journal about a little known about and unfulfilled request by the Cheyenne. If I didn't know better (by reading the author's note) I might have thought this really happened and was part of the
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American Historical Landscape.

A Reader's Guide is available.
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LibraryThing member zina
Based in fact - unbelievable hardship, heroism and fascinating western history tale.
LibraryThing member sabreader
The premise of this book is an actual historical event: in an attempt to ensure peaceful relations with white America, the Cheyenne chief requests 1000 white women to become wives of his men. Though from the Cheyenne perspective this was a step to assimilation -- kids take on the tribal identities
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of their moms -- from the white US perspective it was unacceptable. But what if the proposal had been accepted? That's the starting point of the book.

The writer has done an amazing amount of research and really gives you a perspective that is very different from the way most people in the US think about these issues. It becomes very clear that the "Indian Wars" were ethnic cleansing and genocide, no more and no less, and while that is no surprise to many of us, Fergus does a good job of giving us an inside perspective.

Not being an expert on that period of history or on Native American culture or history, I have no idea how faithful to reality the book is in terms of Cheyenne culture, though it seems to take that culture on its own terms. I'd love to read a review of this book by someone from the Cheyenne nation. That said, it is clearly written from the perspective of a white woman. It shows an alternative vision of what could have been if the culture of greed and genocide had not dominated white American policies and culture...
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LibraryThing member stephlee_77
In a word....Wow! I was utterly blown away by this book. From the opening forward my interest was grabbed and held all the way till the very last page. The writing was so genuine, it was hard for me to keep in mind that this truly was a work of ficiton. May Dodd was an incredibly complex character
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and very far ahead of her time. She was institutionalized by her upper-crust family for "promiscuity". But her only sin was falling in love with a man that wasn't equal in class. She moved in with him and had 2 children out of wedlock, which for the day WAS pretty scandalous. But insane, she was not. To escape the institution, she signed up for a governemental program that offered white brides to the Cheyenne Indians. Throughout the book, she honestly felt like she was doing her duty to try to integrate the Cheyenne people into the world of the white man. This book was so unique, and the format of journal writing actually made you think you were peeking into the lives of real people.

I can't recommend this book enough! Fantastic!
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LibraryThing member iammbb
I read this book quickly and enjoyed it so much that I recommended it to my husband. He was almost done with it when we were preparing to go on a 3 week Grand Canyon river trip and couldn't bear to wait to finish it, so he brought it along and finished it the first night. After he was done with it,
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a friend on the trip read it in two nights, after which another friend took it with her to California. A third friend then borrowed and read it on the plane to and from New York. I highly recommend this book. It's got a unique perspective, is engrossing and emotionally powerful.
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LibraryThing member angela.vaughn
This was one of those books that you get totally envoloved emotionally in. I can't remember the last time I laughed out loud, and cried actual tears while reading a book. I don't know if it is because I have such a rich native american back ground, or that these stories touch me because of the
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history in and of itself. I loved the fact the this is one book that didn't leave you wondering what happened next, to everyone in the story, it was wrapped up all nice and neat. loved it and would tell anyone to read it.
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Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

8.25 inches


0312199430 / 9780312199432
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